If you grew up like I did, my parents always bought wheat bread from the store. White bread was “not healthy enough.” Of course, this only makes you want the forbidden stuff even more, so when I became an adult and bought bread, I steered clear of wheat all-together.
As of late though, I’ve been passing through the baking aisle in the grocery store and noticing King Arthur’s whole wheat flour. A few days ago, I finally decided to pick up a bag with the intention of making some wheat bread. If white bread tastes better from scratch, surely wheat would too, right?
Oh yeah. It does.
When I looked up the recipe in my King Arthur Baker’s Companion, the King said that most of the “wheat breads” you buy in the supermarket are actually white bread loaves with just a sprinkling of wheat flour, and a bunch of artificial color/chemicals. Upon reading that, I fought back the urge to call up my mom and let 7 year-old Will give her a talking-to and decided I better just go ahead and make the dang loaf.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe taken from my Baker’s Companion:
- 1 and 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water
- 3 tablespoons (1 and 1/4 ounces) olive oil
- 5 tablespoons (3 and 3/4 ounces) honey, molasses, or maple syrup
- 3 and 1/2 cups (14 ounces) whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon whole grain bread improver (optional)
- 1/4 cup (1 and 1/4 ounces) sunflower seeds, chopped
- 1/4 cup (1 and 1/8 ounces) walnuts, chopped
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, which gives the flour a chance to absorb the liquids, then knead it for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and supple. The dough will seem very wet and slack at first; just keep mixing and eventually it will come together, though it will remain sticky. Note: For the optimal rise, we recommend using either a bread machine (set on the dough setting) or electric mixer to mix and knead this dough, with the bread machine being the first choice; kneading by hand will result in a smaller, denser loaf.
Let the dough rise, in a greased, covered bowl, for 1 hour. Shape it into a log and place it in a lightly greased 8 and 1/2 x 4 and 1/2-inch bread pan. Cover the pan (with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap) and let it rise for about 1 hour, until it has crowned about 2 inches over the rim of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the bread for 45 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes of baking. Remove from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and cool it on a rack.
Ok, now before I get into how I did it, I want to share a few things I learned that I would do differently the next time I make this loaf. First, when choosing between honey, molasses, or maple syrup, I went with maple syrup. The particular kind I was using was more viscous than honey or molasses, so I’d definitely try one of those two next time. Also, I didn’t have any whole grain bread improver (which was optional), but my bread didn’t rise as much as I imagine it would if I had used it. If you guys try this – please let me know what your findings are! Regardless, the bread was still incredibly delicious and had a lovely texture. It just didn’t rise nearly as high as I wanted it to. That being said, here’s what I did:
I measured out all my ingredients by weight on my kitchen scale, then chopped the walnuts and sunflower seeds in a food processor. Next, I dumped all the ingredients into the bowl of my Kitchen-Aid mixer:
I mixed it on low for about a minute until I got a shaggy dough:
I then let the dough sit in the bowl for 20 minutes like the instructions stated so that the flour absorbed the liquids more. After that, I turned my mixer on setting 2 using the bread hook, and mixed for 10 minutes. Ten minutes didn’t prove to be long enough as my dough was still very wet and not holding any shape, so I let it keep mixing until finally the dough came together and formed something of a sticky dough ball.
I then greased a large bowl with some cooking spray and set the dough into the bowl. I covered the bowl, set it a warm place, and let it rise for an hour.
Once it had risen for an hour, I turned the dough out, formed it into a log, greased my bread pan with baking spray, and placed the dough log into the pan.
I then sprayed a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and draped it over the top of the pan. It went back to a warm place to rise for another hour.
Here’s where I believe that whole grain bread improver would have helped – I didn’t get the dough to rise much more than a half an inch over the top of the pan and the recipe called for a more significant rise. Oh well…again, it still tasted great…
I preheated the oven after an hour to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, hoping the bread would rise a little more while the oven was getting hot, but it really didn’t do much more. I then popped the pan into the oven.
I baked the loaf for 25 minutes, then took a piece of aluminum foil folded in the middle to make a tent, and placed it over the baking pan. This kept the loaf baking without browning the top too much. I baked it for another 20 minutes, then removed from the oven, popped the loaf out of the pan, and set it on a rack to cool.
Once it cooled, I took a slice, toasted it, spread it with butter and hesitantly took a bite. My. God. I’ll never complain about wheat bread again knowing what it’s actually supposed to taste like – there’s a rich, almost peppery flavor to the bread that makes you think “this is what breads must have tasted like for our ancestors.” Color me impressed!
If you give it a shot, let me know how it goes for you! As always, happy baking everyone!